Today the Nampo show grounds outside Bothaville will be buzzing with activity as the hundreds of exhibitors prepare for the largest agricultural show in the southern hemisphere this week.

 
Nampo Park from the air, looking towards the northern gate. From Tuesday to Friday the open field to the east is parked full with vehicles. Photo used courtesy of Grain SA
 
I first heard of Nampo as a younger man, whilst paying a visit to my parents. In the course of conversation my father related what had transpired when he had attended the Nampo Harvest Day with a number of other farmers from the district. The events he spoke about had little to do with the show itself (if one discounts the effects of seeing too many virile, prize bulls, that is!), and more to do with escapades on the return journey.
 
Years passed. I had successfully floated the idea of doing an agricultural publication to colleagues in the publishing company and began work on our budding database. I was doing some phoning and when told by yet another company that the person in charge of marketing was at Bothaville preparing for Nampo it became obvious that that was where we needed to go.
 
I headed out from Gauteng on the Potchefstroom road and, nervous of not finding accommodation closer to Bothaville, booked into a bed-and-breakfast at Stilfontein. My destination was an hour and half away, but I was taking no chances! After unloading some belongings, I took to the road again. 
 
Like a first time visitor, I feared the possibility of missing the turnoff to the show and slowed down once I had crossed into the Free State province. If I reached Bothaville, I’d worked out, I would have gone too far. I need not have worried! Big air balloons featuring the logos of different companies were visible kilometres away. It was midday so that year I never experienced the morning traffic jams that stretch for some ten-fifteen kilometres, a phenomena in this rural area that is hard to believe unless you’ve attended the show itself.
 
Photo used courtesy of Farmer's Weekly
 
The many livestock greet you if you enter via the north gate, as I did that year. I walked through all the familiar farm smells of my youth, viewing the many cattle breeds. Sheep, pigs, goats and horses also enjoy a healthy presence here. It was an hour and a half later when I reached the first big hall and purchased something to eat and a bottle of mineral water. 
 
As I rested in the small area of shade outside, I viewed a forgotten world. My spirits were low, and this only partly from a feeling of being dehydrated. I estimated that I had covered barely a fifth of the terrain, and already had hundreds of pamphlets, publications and business cards in my satchel. I felt daunted by the size of what I was looking at and the task that lay ahead of building the planned publication. (Other "directories" that we'd been shown consisted of about four articles and some thirty pages of adverts. If you didn't advertise, you did not exist. Hardly something that a farmer would read, and not very helpful to anyone else. We had something else in mind).
 
The years that followed would see a small team print the National Agricultural Directory and its translation, the Nasionale Landbougids, and establish a presence at the annual show, first in the Department of Agriculture tent (our anchor partner) and then in a stand of our own. 
 
Our stall seconds before the first wave of visitors arrive at 7h00
 
 
We put out the fifth edition of the book, now called the Agri Handbook, and exhibited it for two years, 2013 and 2014. (That edition can be downloaded free under “Shop” and “The fifth edition” at http://www.agribook.co.za).
 
And then our business model changed. Rather than the printed, nearly 700 page publication (an expensive affair!) we are moving the resource across to being a website with downloadable PDFs of the 14 volumes that together make up the book. The PDFs are printable. Hardcopies will soon be available, either from a limited print run or as print-on-demand.
 
Nampo 2019 should see us back again, and we look forward to reconnecting to friends and acquaintances, some of whom we have not seen for many months now. Until then, there is still plenty to do!
 
Find information on Nampo at www.grainsa.co.za/pages/nampo.
 
The "Agricultural shows and events" chapter of the Agri Handbook can be viewed here.